Friday, May 18, 2007

SOCOM celebrates 20th anniversary

An Air Force transport plane and a Navy helicopter collided on the ground in an Iranian desert in April 1980, killing eight men in a botched mission to rescue 53 American hostages. The incident underscored for military commanders and Congress that special operations required more money and major organizational reforms.

John Carney, a retired Air Force colonel who was involved in the botched Iranian hostage rescue, said special operations were being methodically dismantled and underfunded after the Vietnam War. When called on by President Carter for the Iran mission, he said, “we couldn't have been in a worse state.”

A congressional act called for a unified command for all special forces with its own resources, commander and headquarters. U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was activated on April 16, 1987, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base. The unified command gave special operations money and a four-star general at the helm who got to work re-equipping it and clarifying the roles of the individual services and their training programs. Since then, its commandos have fought in Operation Desert Storm and carried out missions from the Persian Gulf to Somalia, usually with little fanfare.

As SOCOM celebrates twenty years of service, it has been thrust into a front-and-center role organizing and coordinating the war against terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, where its highly trained commandos have been key players. Gen. Bryan “Doug” Brown the SOCOM commander, said the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the country’s new focus on smoking out terrorists “changed how we do business.”

The number of deployed special operations personnel has grown from an average of around 2,400 before the GWOT to an all-time high of about 7,400. Personnel under SOCOM’s authority have swollen to a record high of about 48,000 around the world and recently activate a Marine component. In the GWOT, special operators have, among other things, hunted down high-profile terrorists, trained Iraqi security forces, plucked wounded soldiers from war zones and engaged in the psychological battle for the hearts and minds of civilians.

Lt. Gen. Michael W. Wooley, chief of the Air Force Special Operations Command, which falls under the SOCOM command umbrella, acknowledges that the war prompted more efficient training to get qualified people through faster: “I deal with thoroughbreds, and thoroughbreds want to run the Kentucky Derby or any of the Triple Crown races. Our folks have been training for this war for many, many years.”

“I saw it rise from the ashes in the desert to the capability it has today,” John Carney said. “Now there is no special operations capability in the world that can compare to what we have.”

Souce: AP

2 comments:

Constantino said...

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Lt. Colonel Creedon said...

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